We're here at the MENA Transport Congress & Exhibition (23-25 April) in Dubai, and our Congress sessions are in full swing. During a plenary session titled 'Mapping and Understanding Paratransit/Hybrid/Informal Transport Systems in MENA cities', Devin De Vries, CEO from WhereIsMyTransport in South Africa, is here discussing how to unlock mobility solutions in African cities through new types of access to data. With the idea of 'city by city', we can connect a continent.
We were happy to sit down with Devin and get his thoughts on MENA, public transport and the industry going forward.
This edition of the MENA Transport Congress & Exhibition is based around the theme of Pioneering for Customer Happiness, recognising that customers are at the core of public transport service, how important do you think this theme is for public transport right now?
Many cities are grappling with increasing private motorisation rates and declining public transport ridership. Access to reliable, convenient, affordable, and safe public transport is critical to ensuring that public transport is a first choice, rather than last resort. Especially in a day and age in which digital technologies are increasingly parts of everyday life, innovations in how information can be used and communicated offer ways of rethinking urban mobility at the service of the commuter. Information will be pivotal in facilitating commuter happiness by putting them at the centre of public transport planning and operating efforts.
The MENA region is leading the industry in many ways when it comes to revolutionary public transport, particularly Dubai, what do you think the world can learn from the progress the MENA region is making?
Many important advances have been made in the region in the past 10 years, and the world can certainly learn from the initiatives put in place to reduce congestion and improve public transport. From planning a better integration between modes to providing links to key points of interest, MENA cities have made great strides in reducing the barrier to use public transport.
Access to reliable, convenient, affordable, and safe public transport is critical to ensuring that public transport is a first choice, rather than last resort.
Can you talk to us about your hopes for WhereIsMyTransport in the UAE? Is coming to events such as the MENA Transport Congress in Dubai important to your long-term vision?
The MENA Transport Congress brings together leading transport thinkers and innovators from many backgrounds and experiences, making it the ideal forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices. In many ways, WhereIsMyTransport is pioneering an information-based approach to mobility challenges in African regions and there are many lessons that can be learnt and taken back to our own work through dialogues with both fellow speakers and the audience. The situation in the UAE is also very exciting and lots of transit projects are underway: we are following them closely and we’re eager to bring our expertise to the table in the near future.
You are due to appear on a panel session discussing mapping and understanding paratransit/hybrid/informal transport system in MENA cities. What do you hope this panel discussion will showcase and achieve?
There are many independent mapping initiatives that have emerged in the past few years with different approaches to data collection based on specific site constraints. This panel provides the opportunity for panellists to share lessons learnt that they can then take and apply to their own work. Moreover, this panel has the opportunity to discuss with the audience the value of such effort-intensive mapping work and how data on these informally run transport systems can contribute to the future mobility strategies of the city.
Information will be pivotal in facilitating commuter happiness by putting them at the centre of public transport planning and operating efforts.
And finally, WhereIsMyTransport believes in enriching services, empowering people and enabling innovation. Is the company where you thought it would be when you co-founded it and came up with this vision?
There have been many challenges and hurdles along the way that we have embraced in our mission to, through an information-based and technological approach, empower people everywhere to get where they want to go. This has meant adapting to a variety of circumstances and pioneering approaches in new areas to foster equitable mobility. We are proud of our achievements and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
Thanks to Devin for taking the time to speak with us!
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